PEORIA - Keiya Dancer, born Laurie Winkler, 39, of Peoria passed away peacefully on Wednesday, April 17, 2013, at OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home in Peoria after a 5-year journey with breast cancer.
Keiya was born on April 8, 1974, to Donald Winkler and Jo Anne (Simon) Winkler.
She was preceded in death by her father; maternal uncle, Arnie Simon; maternal grandfather, Earl Simon; and paternal grandparents, George and Esther (Dahlhauser) Winkler.
She is survived by her mother, Jo Anne of Peoria; brother, Tim Winkler of Chicago; her sisters, Shelley Winkler of Peoria and Lindsay Winkler of Chicago; brother-in-law, Jon Domanus of Chicago; and her beloved dog, Luci.
Keiya graduated from St. Bernard's Grade School and Woodruff High School in Peoria. She received a bachelor's degree in 1997 from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where she majored in forest resource management and minored in Spanish and plant and soil science. She also earned a master's degree in spiritual psychology in 2008 from University of Santa Monica in Santa Monica, Calif. During her undergraduate program, she studied abroad in Costa Rica and Ecuador.
After graduation, she worked in urban permaculture, and woodland and prairie habitat restoration in Illinois and Missouri. In 1997 and 1998, she lived in Denver, Colo., caring for her father, who was battling cancer. There, she worked as a tutor and mentor for at-risk youth with I Have a Dream Foundation of AmeriCorps. From 2001 to 2004, she owned Urban Ecological Designs, a part-time business focusing on urban permaculture and community gardens. She also worked for Friends of Sangamon Valley doing ecological restoration. From 2005 to 2009, she was a field guide and counselor for a wilderness substance abuse program in Utah.
Keiya was a bright light in the world, dedicating her life to healing and sustaining the earth and its creatures in myriad ways. She was a gifted poet, musician and dancer. She studied, practiced and honored many of the world's faiths, contributing to a rich spiritual life. Her life's mission was to bring some of the divine's pure joy to life here on earth, and that she did.
Known for her wisdom, courage, tenacity, playfulness and loving heart, Keiya had a beautiful smile and a contagious laugh. Her wonderful spirit will live on in all she touched and in the hearts of her family and many friends.
Cremation rites have been accorded and were handled by Wright & Salmon Mortuary, and a celebration of Keiya's life will be held on Saturday, May 11, 2013, at Universalist Unitarian Church of Peoria, 3000 W. Richwoods Blvd. Open visitation will be from 4:30 to 6 p.m., followed by a memorial service at 6 p.m. Food and friendship to follow until 9 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Sun Foundation or OSF Richard L. Owens Hospice Home. Make checks payable to For Love of Keiya Fund, and mail to P.O. Box 591, Peoria, IL 61651-0391. Please specify chosen memorial on memo line.
For more information, photos or to share online tributes and condolences, visit Keiya's memorial website at www.ForLoveOfKeiya.com.